[The following article was originally published in our sister publication in Seattle, The Stranger—and you might be interested in it as well!—eds]
I understand that some consider "Karen" a sort of sexist slur, but unfortunately there's just no other way to describe Washington state's Senate Bill 5135, which allows people to sue when someone falsely calls the cops with the intent to "unlawfully discriminate against the other person."
If the Karen bill passes the Legislature, then victims will be able to take their racist 911-caller to a civil court and win up to $250. The court could also award punitive costs and attorney fees.
In this way, the bill aims to stop Karens and I guess Kens, Terrys, or Gregs, as the reputable source Fatherly.com calls their male counterparts.
Inspired by the anti-Karen bill Oregon passed last year, Sen. Mona Das put forward Washington's version this year as a way to provide recourse for the people who fall victim to these nonsense 911 calls.
Das said she'd seen video after video of people "fueled by bias and intimidation" calling the cops on a person "doing nothing wrong."
Remember the white woman who called the cops on the Black birder in New York City? The white woman who dialed 911 on the Black family having a barbeque in an Oakland park? The eight-year-old San Francisco girl a white woman confronted—her 911 finger at the ready—for selling water without a permit?
"These incidences can deeply and negatively impact vulnerable communities," Das said.
Sakara Rammu, a member of the Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance, spoke in favor of the bill in the Senate's Law & Justice Committee last month.
"This is yet another way that Washington state can stand up and lead the nation by empowering communities to protect themselves and seek remedies and justice to being targeted in this way," Rammu said.
Das told me that she wasn't sure whether this would deter people from making these calls, but it would at least equip people with a defense. Right now, spreading videos of Karens and their 911 calls across social media and waiting for some sort of fallout is the only consequence. Once that media dies down, then what? This bill is "mainly for the people who have experienced [these calls] to they feel like they have a recourse," Das said.
And, hey, maybe law enforcement agencies will be able to save their resources for actual public safety issues, Das said.
Currently, the bill is sailing through its Senate committees and likely headed for a floor debate after it passes the Rules Committee.
So, if this bill passes, get ready to tell the Karens and Kens in your life that they should check their freaking racial biases at the door the next time they want to harness the power of the state to intimidate a person of color simply for existing. And, if they don't, they'll probably have to cough up some cash.